“I often write about the values my mum taught me and continue to do so, though I seldom write about the goodness my father imparts to me. I guess this is because he is a traditional father, one who works hard, has a glamorous job away from the family and seldom had time for me when he was younger. I loved him, bur we clashed. In later years, like as recent as two years ago, we fought about an important lunch venue (he booked the Marriott, I wanted a pub), and he had stormed off, complaining to my brother, leaving my mother to pick up the pieces. And that was an improvement, would you believe it. Maybe our stars deemed that we would never be cosy with each other.
A few days ago, he and my mother came to stay with me. He is now in his 81st year, and seeing him standing alone at the Arrivals gate at the airport, his eyes scanning for me, moved me almost to tears. He was an old guy with dodgy knees and painful kidney stones, halfway across the world from home. I felt a constriction in my heart. The years had flown by so quickly. Though he still carries his regal bearing, he is imperceptibly softer, more mellow. It is as if we had finished all our battles.
I have some pot plants in my house which are not doing so well. My father picked the leaves from each plant and stared intently at them.
“I should water them more,” I commented.
“No,” he shook his head. “This one is infected with insects, and the other one with fungi.”
His experienced old hand, the one that wears his wedding ring, showed me the sickness, which looks so alike, but are entirely different, one wreaked by insect (on the left) and one by fungi (on the right). I wouldn’t have known.
My father is like Herman Hesse, who had written so many beautiful books, including my favorite, Siddhartha, so full of the knowledge of the natural world. Like my mother, my father is a brilliant teacher who had raised a whole generation of Professors, who are now leading lights all over the world. Perhaps he lacked the patience to cope with my lack of discipline, but he is a brilliant teacher, nonetheless.
I remember our many trips to the New Forest. I didn’t want to listen then. I wanted to run, daydream, be. But in my middle years, I had returned to these forests on my own accord, to be with the ancient trees and feel the years here with my parents. It is as if the trees speak my parents’ lessons back to me, for my parents had always understood trees. My mother knows them all, and call them by their Latin names.
Trees hold much wisdom in them, which was what my parents had endeavoured to teach my brothers and I. Can you believe it, against all established scientific rationale, a tree cut down centuries ago could still be alive, still has a thin layer of chlorophyll hundreds of years later, photosynthesising, nourished by its family. This is called assisted living, when a family of trees help each other with their fungal network across many miles, serving as an extended nervous system connecting one to another over many miles.
Trees can teach us so much about life and the importance of family and community. In my heartbreak, I had walked the New Forest on my own, and then when I became human again, I walked here with my partner and my children, stopping at a pub on the edge of New Forest for lovely lunches with my loved ones, nurtured, nourished, loved and blessed.
This is a beautiful drawing from Buddha Doodles, inspired by Rumi:
Yes, I have learned this in my yoga journey, too. Let go of what that doesn’t serve you, like anger, hate, bitterness, the difficult past. The tree could not survive the seasons if it had hung on to its dead leaves. Focus your energy instead on self-growth and nourishing others.
If you would like to read more about trees, please read this article. I highly recommend it. Be filled with wonder ❤ BE.